Column: Kuznetsov makes long-waited debut for Washington
For Washington Capitals fans, patience truly is a virtue.
It's been nearly four years since the Capitals drafted Russian prodigy Evgeny Kuznetsov. It's been four years of telling tall tales of his European exploits, salivating over YouTube highlight videos and, most importantly, waiting for the day the now 21-year-old will put the pen to paper and make his move stateside.
That day finally came this week, as Kuznetsov is finally signed to the Washington Capital. Fans are delighted and the player is ready to begin his NHL career. Meanwhile, Capitals general manager George McPhee has been left in a state of disbelief.
"It's kind of like seeing the Loch Ness Monster when he walked in," McPhee said. "We've heard you, but we haven't seen you. And there he was. I found it hard to believe he was standing there after all this."
Let's get this straight, Kuznetsov is a stud. He was touted as a prospect that could step in immediately when he was drafted back in 2010. That was when he was 17-years-old.
His statistics rival those of new teammate Alexander Ovechkin's stay in the KHL, Russia's top league. He led his team, Chelyabinsk Traktor, in scoring for each of the past three seasons, while being named an All-Star in 2012.
However, Capitals fans expecting Kuznetsov to guide them to a Stanley Cup this season are slightly ambitious.
Kuznetsov is already facing pressures that he hasn't confronted since the days of Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby's rookie campaigns. He has been compared to a mythical creature by his own manager, all while being expected to be the savior of a franchise that finds itself outside of the playoff circuit.
With or without Kuznetsov, the Capitals are nothing more than a solid team. Ovechkin is a star, his teammates are decent, and that's about it. They are nowhere near the level of the St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks.
The addition of Kuznetsov makes the Capitals favorites to find their way into the playoff picture. However, much like their initial pursuit of Kuznetsov, good things come to those who wait, and Caps fans should give their new Russian time before anointing him savior.
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